Subornation of Perjury

Fundamentals of Criminal Law by Adam J. McKee

The legal system relies on truth to deliver justice. But what happens when someone intentionally corrupts the truth-telling process? This is where we encounter the crime known as subornation of perjury.

Definition and Overview

Subornation of perjury occurs when an individual persuades someone else to commit perjury, which is the act of lying under oath in a court of law. This crime strikes at the heart of the legal system, as it undermines the pursuit of truth.

When discussing subornation of perjury, we’re essentially talking about two separate but connected actions: one person committing perjury and another person causing or encouraging that perjury. To understand this concept, let’s break down the term. “Suborn” comes from the Latin subornare, meaning to secretly furnish or equip someone to commit a wrongful act. “Perjury” is when someone knowingly makes a false statement during a judicial proceeding after taking an oath to speak truthfully.

Historical Development

Historically, the law has harshly punished those who tamper with the truth. From ancient times, societies have recognized the importance of truth in judicial proceedings. The idea that one must not lie under oath is so old that it’s even found in the Bible and ancient legal codes like the Code of Hammurabi.

Over centuries, as legal systems evolved, so did the rules about truth-telling. By the Middle Ages, English common law began to formally recognize perjury and its subornation as distinct crimes. This recognition carried over into American law, where both perjury and the act of inducing perjury have been consistently viewed as serious offenses.

Modern Statutory Interpretations

In modern legal systems, statutes define subornation of perjury with specific elements that must be proven. Typically, these include proving that perjury actually occurred, that the defendant knowingly induced another to commit perjury, and that the perjured statements were material to the proceedings.

Modern statutes also address the varying ways in which subornation can occur, recognizing that persuasion might be subtle or indirect, such as through implications, threats, or promises.

Summary of Elements

For a person to be convicted of subornation of perjury, the following elements are typically required:

  1. Another’s Perjury: There must be a willful act of perjury by another person.
  2. Procurement or Inducement: The defendant must have intentionally caused or encouraged the person to commit perjury.
  3. Knowledge: The defendant knew that the statements made under oath were false.
  4. Materiality: The false statements were material, meaning they could affect the outcome of the legal proceeding.

🔍 Reflect: How might the crime of subornation of perjury impact the trustworthiness of the legal system if left unchecked? What could be the consequences for the wider society?

Modification History

File Created:  07/17/2018

Last Modified:  11/07/2023

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License


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